Month: December 2019

White Christmas: The Blizzard of 1966

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A dusting of snow brings a touch of magic to Christmas, but a blizzard is another story! Don Mc Dermot recalls the year that a winter storm dumped between 12 and 21 inches of snow in the Philadelphia area on Christmas Eve:

It started snowing December 23 early afternoon and the next morning the snow was waist high. I was working at Wyeth Labs in Radnor and was ‘off’. It was ridiculous watching the snow pile up. Mid-afternoon Mother Boniface called me asking if there was any way I could open a path across 47th St. from the convent to the church so that the Sisters would be able to get to Midnight Mass.”

“Of course, I said that I would see what could be done. I called the boys on Windsor Avenue: John Welding and Ed German, and they contacted: Frank and Paul Allen, Jim and John Hay and others. They met around 6 PM and shoveled a path from the Convent door straight across the street to the side sacristy door. I walked home, ate supper, dressed and struggled back to the church. Tom Magee was in the sacristy wondering if there would be Midnight Mass. I went into the rectory and it was decided that Mass would be held for whoever showed-up.”

It was around 10 PM that the altar boys, popes (the “popes” were little altar servers in training), choir boys and men began arriving, vested in the auditorium, and the Sisters made it to the auditorium and tied on the large ribbon ties: red for the altar boys, fuschia for the choir boys.  Monsignor Sefton was amazed and they (the rectory) called the Dairy Maid Bakery on 47th Street and arranged for some firemen to deliver all the donuts that they (the snowed-in bakery) would be unable to deliver to the auditorium. Some men started using the large coffee urns in the small kitchen on the stage making coffee. The church was already full of the parents and families of the boys.”

The Sisters crossed 47th St and entered by the sacristy entrance and were seated in front of St. Joseph altar; the Monsignor and priests took their seats in the sanctuary. The Bell Ringers started playing the bells at 10:30 PM. Around 10:50 the choir members lined up in the left side aisle, the altar boys lined up across the front aisle and the popes in the center aisle. The choir entered, singing their opening hymn as they processed in back of their Processional Crucifix, followed by the altar boys with the popes lining the front aisle in front of the Nativity scene which had only the star lit. The priests with the Monsignor walked at the back of the procession. The choir sang a full hour of Christmas hymns. Just before midnight, one of the popes carried the statue of the Christ Child to the Monsignor who went into the stable and placed the Christ Child statue into the manger. The organ blasted out as the choir sang, ‘Joy to the World’, and all the lights were turned on—Christmas had arrived at De Sales!”

After Midnight Mass, “The Monsignor invited everyone to go into the auditorium for coffee and donuts before walking home. In the Auditorium, the altar and choir boys were given Christmas gifts from the priests. The choir members played the piano and the singing went on to around 5 AM” when everyone presumably staggered home, exhausted, for family celebrations!



Christmas Past

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SFDS Monthly Parish Bulletin December 1924

Features and ads in St. Francis de Sales Parish Christmas Bulletins from the 1920s offer windows into a different age – when gifts might be hung on the Christmas tree and the Christmas stocking was a novelty!


“For some reason, the beloved Christmas stocking of our childhood is not as common as it once was.

Kiddies who do not enjoy the thrill of opening mysterious packages, rooted from the recesses of a stocking in the dawn’s early light, are missing something that is their inalienable right.

The sheerness, or delicate fabric of Mother’s stocking, may keep them from using hers, but a Christmas stocking of some kind should be the possession of every child.

The larger presents may be downstairs beneath the spruce or fir, but a little gift or two should be added to the fruit, nuts and candy that are carefully wrapped in crinky packages and placed in the stocking. The time-honored orange should be placed in the toe; the horn, the jumping jack or the whistle should stick from the top. Do not use rich candies or soft-shelled nuts as fillers, or the child’s breakfast appetite will be destroyed. Better wrap a few hard candies of some kind in tissue paper and use the various nuts that cannot be broken by little fingers.

A nickel, a dime and perhaps a quarter, wrapped in several wrappings, and possibly securely tied inside a box will furnish several minutes of intense excitement. An apple will be appreciated. A potato from the bin, carefully wrapped in colored paper and tied, will bring a squeal of delight.

By all means give the children their Christmas stockings.”

Our second Pastor, Bishop Crane, was from the Ashland, PA, coal mining area, and many parishioners had family connections in that region, so they probably appreciated the joke:


Interested Neighbor: ‘You seem to be a bright little boy. I suppose you have a very good place in your class?’

Little Boy: ‘Oh, yes, I sit right by the stove.’

Teacher in Pennsylvania mining district: ‘Can any one of you tell me where the Savior was born?’

‘Allentown,’ shouted Gottlieb.

Teacher: ‘What, Allentown! I just told you yesterday the Savior was born in Bethlehem.’

Gottlieb: ‘That’s right! I knew it was somewhere along the Lehigh Valley railroad.’”

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SFDS Monthly Parish Bulletin December 1925
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SFDS Monthly Parish Bulletin December 1925
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SFDS Monthly Parish Bulletin December 1925
1924 bulletin ad
SFDS Monthly Parish Bulletin December 1924

Monsignor Joseph J. Anderlonis, S.T.D.


Sixteenth Pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish

 October 1, 1944 to December 6, 2019

Monsignor Joe kept his promise too soon. He always said that he would never leave us voluntarily – he’d be with us until they “carry me out in a box, feet first.” Now, he joins the ranks of the great former pastors whose lives we commemorate in our parish bulletin every winter on their anniversaries – ironically, a tradition he instituted.

Monsignor Joe was smart, kind, wise, generally easygoing, sometimes outspoken, and had an impish sense of humor. He was not one to “toot his own horn.”

Today, we learn that Monsignor Joseph J. Anderlonis was born in Philadelphia on October 1,1944. He attended Saint Andrew’s and All Saints’ parochial schools, then Father Judge High School, before entering Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he graduated with a B.A. with highest honors. In 1966, he went on to study in Rome, residing at the Pontifical North American College, and enrolled at the Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University. There, he received a Bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology in 1968 and the Licentiate degree in 1970. Busy guy: in between, he was ordained to the priesthood in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome on December 19, 1969.

In 1970, Father Anderlonis became curate at Most Precious Blood and then Resurrection Parish, Chester, PA. Later assignments included Old Saint Mary’s, Society Hill; the Basilica-Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul; and Holy Saviour Parish, Linwood, PA. From 1974 to1977, he did post-graduate coursework in Dogmatic Theology at the Gregorian University. From 1977 to 1982, he taught at Neumann College, Aston, PA, and was the academic supervisor for the first Permanent Diaconate program of the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.

Father Anderlonis became tenth Pastor of Saint George Parish in 1982. He also served on the Marriage Tribunal of Philadelphia. At the same time, he continued his studies, receiving his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.), Magna Cum Laude, from the Gregorian University in Rome on May 29, 1987, with a dissertation on the Christology of the Swedish Theologian and Bishop, Gustaf Aulen (1879-1977). In 1988, Father Joe Anderlonis became National Spiritual Advisor of the Supreme Council of the Knights of Lithuania. In, 1998, “Father Joe” was appointed an Honorary Prelate of His Holiness and became “Monsignor Joe.” He was invested at the Cathedral on June14, 1998.

Monsignor Joe, christened unofficially as “Mojo” by students at St. George, had deep roots in Philadelphia. He often noted that the paternal side of his family had its roots in Saint George Parish (Andrew and Anna Matoniute Andrulonis) and his maternal grandparents (Anthony and Karolina Petrosaite Kraujutis) were among the founding families of Saint Andrew Parish.

When Monsignor Joe came to St. Francis de Sales in 2016, he also still had duties at St. George, so he traveled back and forth, but he embraced our parish with all of its history and all of its potential. During the time that he was here, he encouraged the ideas and projects of parishioners that would help to build the community. He held parish “town meetings” and periodic informal gatherings, where he listened to needs and suggestions. He instituted the monthly refreshments, sponsored by the different ministries, in the church after Mass, so we could get to know each other. He encouraged book clubs and educational endeavors and relished conversations about neighborhood and church history. He moved the Blessing of the Animals from the parking lot to the parish garden. He kept our Nativity Pageant and Birthday Song traditions and supported the choir and the Assumption Religious spiritual exercises. He made a thousand tiny adjustments that helped to bring our diverse community together and he will be greatly missed.

Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him.

These were the verses written for the memorial of Bishop Crane, our second pastor, who built St. Francis de Sales Church, and who died close to Christmas on December 26, 1928. They seem appropriate once again:


By Sister M. Donatus, Immaculata College

“The angels must finish these beads,”

He smiles, his last dear rosary –

And the good Bishop, kind to us all,

Sailed over Death’s quiet sea


Mary’s bright love attended him,

A Star in the darkest night –

The little King’s arms awaiting,

Heaven was just in sight.


To the music of Aves, from angel’s tongues,

A Baby’s eye on the mast,

Life’s last glad mystery finished,

The Bishop reached Port at last.